Another View: Obama’s Cuba policy is failing
Published: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 10:34 p.m. CST
Can an authoritarian regime convert to democracy by itself? The
historical record isn’t encouraging. In the absence of a popular
uprising, it is rare for tyrants to voluntarily retire.
The military junta of Burma has promised to relinquish some power to an
elected government, but it has not yet delivered. China’s party-state
shows no inclination to try. Russia’s strongman is reversing what
incipient democracy existed.
This goes to the core of why President Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba
seems to be failing to live up to its declared goals. When the end to a
half-century of hostility was announced in December 2014, the proclaimed
U.S. purpose was to “unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans,” to
“engage and empower the Cuban people,” and to “empower the nascent Cuban
private sector,” among other things.
The administration continued to offer this rationale for its latest
moves. New regulations that took effect Jan. 27 from the Commerce and
Treasury departments further lifted restrictions on financing of exports
to Cuba and relaxed limits on shipping products to the island. Most
importantly, the rules will allow banks to finance exports to Cuba on
credit, with the exception of agricultural commodities covered by the
still-existing trade embargo, rather than requiring cash as before, or
burdensome routing through third countries.
Yet there is scant evidence so far of a sea change in Cuba – perhaps
because Obama continues to offer the Castro regime unilateral
concessions requiring nothing in return. Since the United States has
placed no human rights conditions on the opening, the Castro regime
continues to systematically engage in arbitrary detention of dissidents
and others who speak up for democracy. In fact, detentions have spiked
in recent months. The state continues to monopolize radio, television
The administration has defined one of its goals as opening Cuba to the
Internet, but the nation still suffers from some of the lowest
connectivity rates in the world. The regime established a few dozen WiFi
spots but charges people $2 an hour to use them; the average salary is
$20 a month. The state retains a chokehold on the economy, including
tourism; the benefits of a 50 percent increase in U.S. visitors are
being garnered by Raúl Castro’s son-in-law, the industry’s boss.
Meanwhile, Cuba’s purchases of U.S. goods have fallen by more than 10
The hoped-for explosion in individual enterprise has not materialized
either. On the contrary: The number of licensed self-employed workers
has been dropping. If there are commercial deals as a result of the
latest U.S. measures, it is Cuban state organizations that will benefit;
only they are allowed to engage in foreign trade.
What’s most evident over the past year is that the Castro brothers are
effectively preventing real change and reform even as they reap the
rewards of Obama’s opening. The president’s only response has been more
unilateral concessions, along with talk of a visit to the island before
he leaves office. Autocrats everywhere must be watching with envy the
Castros’ good fortune.
Source: Another View: Obama’s Cuba policy is failing | Daily Chronicle –